Editing: First Draft to Final Product

All's_well_that_inks_well by Chris Wightman

Photo: “All’s Well that Inks Well” by Chris Wightman

I’m often asked about the process of taking a book from a first draft to a published novel. In a previous post I talked about my drafting process, how I go from concept to manuscript, particularly when writing mysteries. This time I thought I’d talk about the editing process for traditionally published novels. Every writer, every publishing house, and every individual editor will likely have a slightly different editing process, so the following is based on my own experiences and might not be the same for everyone.

Once I have a complete first draft I like to dive right into the first round of editing. Since I don’t like to stop and go back while I’m drafting (so I don’t lose my momentum) I instead make notes along the way of things that need to be changed or added as a result of the new pages I’ve written each day. So my first round of editing involves incorporating those changes and then reading through the entire manuscript and filling in plot holes and changing whatever else needs to be changed. Typically, I’ll go straight from the first round of editing to the second, maybe with a few days in between.

After I’ve gone through two rounds of editing, I like to put the manuscript aside and let it rest, preferably for at least three weeks. Putting the manuscript aside for a while allows me to go back to it with fresh eyes, and I tend to see things that I would have missed without that time away. The break also gives me a chance to send the manuscript to one or more critique partners so I can incorporate their feedback during the next round of editing.

Depending on my schedule, I’ll turn the manuscript in to my editor after three or four rounds of editing. The next stages really depend on the preferred process of the editor. However, so far in my own experience the manuscript has either gone through one or two rounds of editing with my editor before being sent to copyediting.

My editor goes through the manuscript and uses track changes to address things in the document, and I usually get some notes by email as well. Generally, the first round focuses on bigger issues, like the plot. Then my editor goes through it again and either approves it to go to copyediting or does line edits, focusing on more detailed things like repetitive use of certain words, trimming sentences that aren’t necessary, and addressing any sentences or paragraphs that might be awkward or unclear. Sometimes I’ve had these line edits combined with the big picture edits for one round of editing before copyediting, but it depends on the editor and the state of the manuscript.

From there, the manuscript goes to a copyeditor, who focuses on the technical details, like getting the manuscript to conform to the Chicago Manual of Style, or whichever style they use. In my experience, any changes that are made are done with track changes so I can see what has been done. After copyediting, I get the chance to review the changes. So far this has always been the last chance for me to make any changes, but sometimes authors get to review a proof, at which point they can make some limited changes.

Before turning in the manuscript for the final time, I get my Kindle to read the entire document to me with text-to-speech. I can’t stress how important this step is to me. I like to feel that I’ve done everything I can to make my book as clean as possible. Even after going through professional editors, there are always a few typos and other issues that remain. Writers and editors are human, after all, and it’s easy to miss a few typos, especially tiny ones like a missing “a” or “as” here and there.

Since my Kindle doesn’t have a human brain, it doesn’t read what it knows should be written, but what is actually written. Every time I’ve gone through this step with a manuscript I’ve found at least a few little typos that otherwise would have made it into the published book. The text-to-speech round can be tedious and it takes a lot of hours, but it’s a step I hope my schedule never forces me to skip.

Once I’ve turned in the manuscript for the final time, it’s out of my hands, and I can work on other projects while looking forward to the publication date! This is where I am with both Deadly Overtures (releases in June) and The Crêpes of Wrath (releases in September). 🙂

Social Media Pages

I now have author pages on both Goodreads and Bookbub!

My current books and my next two releases are now up on Goodreads, and I’ve also linked this blog to my Goodreads author page.

If you’re a Bookbub user, you can now follow me there and receive notifications of any new releases.

As always, you can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.

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Cover Reveal: The Crêpes of Wrath

A while back I announced that I’ll have a new cozy mystery series (published by Penguin Random House) beginning in September 2016 – the Pancake House Mysteries. The Crêpes of Wrath is the first book in the series and will be released as an e-book on September 20, 2016. Today I’m excited to share the cover for The Crêpes of Wrath for the first time.

Here it is:

Cover - Crepes

I love how the designer incorporated a glimpse of the ocean and really captured the cozy feel of the story and the setting – the seaside town of Wildwood Cove.

I’m also excited to share the cover copy for the book, so you can find out what it’s about:

In the debut of a delightful cozy mystery series, Sarah Fox introduces a charming new heroine who finds herself in a sticky situation: stacking pancakes, pouring coffee, and investigating murder.

When Marley McKinney’s aging cousin, Jimmy, is hospitalized with pneumonia, she agrees to help run his pancake house while he recovers. With its rustic interior and syrupy scent, the Flip Side Pancake House is just as she pictured it—and the surly chef is a wizard with crêpes. Marley expects to spend a leisurely week or two in Wildwood Cove, the quaint, coastal community where she used to spend her summers, but then Cousin Jimmy is found murdered, sprawled on the rocks beneath a nearby cliff.

 After she stumbles across evidence of stolen goods in Jimmy’s workshop, Marley is determined to find out what’s really going on in the not-so-quiet town of Wildwood Cove. With help from her childhood crush and her adopted cat, Flapjack, Marley sinks her teeth into the investigation. But if she’s not careful, she’s going to get burned by a killer who’s only interested in serving up trouble.

I can’t wait for this book to get out in the world and for readers to spend time with the main character, Marley, in Wildwood Cove! 😀

The Crêpes of Wrath is currently available for pre-order from online retailers like Amazon.

Building a Mystery

Power of Words

The Power of Words by Antonio Litterio

Recently I was asked about my drafting process, so I thought I’d share a bit about it here on my blog.

My drafting strategy has changed over time, and I won’t be surprised if it continues to evolve as I write more books in the future. When I first started writing novels, I was a complete panster. In other words, I’d start writing without doing any plotting or planning beforehand. That didn’t work out so well for me though. I’d end up with a weak plot that sometimes dwindled off into nothing as I wrote myself into a dead-end.

When I wrote my first mystery, Dead Ringer (which was my fourth novel), I did a bit of planning before writing, but not a whole lot. That strategy worked at the time, but when I approached my next mystery in the same fashion, the results weren’t so great. I ended up with a manuscript that was way too short and had to spend a lot of time and effort reworking it into a full-length story.

Since that experience, I’ve been doing a lot more planning before starting to write, and so far I’m finding that it makes my life easier. I’m not the kind of person who can plan out the entire story before drafting, with every scene outlined in detail, but I do like to have a framework to build on, especially for mysteries, which can get confusing with all the suspects, clues, and red herrings involved.

When preparing to write a mystery, I now start out by planning the basics. I come up with the killer, the victim(s), the motive, and the means. Once I know those elements, I make a list of suspects, people who have a reason to want the victim dead. I also include each suspect’s apparent motive. Then I move on to listing the things that each suspect will do or the information the main character will find out about them that makes that person seem guilty. Sometimes I’ll also make a note of what could end up exonerating that suspect in the end.

I assign each character a colour and then merge all the suspect notes into a timeline so I have a general idea of which events will occur in which order and when the main character will discover each piece of information. That timeline usually changes along the way, but it at least gives me something to work with. The colour coding helps me to see how the things related to each suspect will be distributed throughout the story, and also makes it obvious if one character needs more added to his or her part of the plot.

Once all that is done, I write a basic outline for the first two or three chapters, and then I start writing. Generally, I’ll outline between two and five chapters at a time. That allows me to have some direction while also letting the story take me places I couldn’t have anticipated beforehand.

So while I do work with an outline, that outline changes and evolves along the way. I guess that puts me somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between a plotter and a pantster. Probably a little closer to the plotter side now, which is proving valuable in my current circumstances. Now that I have deadlines to meet, I find it far less stressful to end up with a relatively strong plot at the end of the first draft, rather than having to spend weeks later on revising substantial parts of the structure of the story. Of course, that’s just what works best for me. Every writer is different, after all. 🙂

Cover Reveal: Deadly Overtures

Deadly Overtures (A Music Lover’s Mystery #3) will be released in June 2016, first as an e-book, with paperback to follow. As with the first two books in the series, Deadly Overtures follows professional violinist Midori Bishop in her adventures as an amateur sleuth. I’ll share more about the book below, but first here’s the cover:

Deadly Overtures

I love it so much and I’m so grateful to the art department at HarperCollins for designing such fabulous covers for each book in the series.

Here’s what Deadly Overtures is about:

Four talented classical music composers have been named finalists in a composing competition hosted by the Point Grey Philharmonic. With money and egos on the line, it doesn’t surprise violinist Midori Bishop that the competition has brought out jealousy and bitter rivalries among the entrants. What does surprise her is finding one of the finalists murdered in the theater. With a cloud of suspicion hanging over the symphony’s esteemed concertmaster, Midori orchestrates her own investigation, uncovering a medley of dark secrets and motives for murder. But can she can bring the truth to light before the killer silences her forever?

Again, Deadly Overtures is due out in June 2016. The ebook is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Amazon Canada, Chapters, Barnes & Noble, and from other online book retailers. You can find out more about the first two books in the series (Dead Ringer and Death in A Major) on my author website.

I’ve had so much fun writing this mystery series and I hope readers will enjoy it!

Writing Update

Blue_pen_on_paper

Photo credit: Revital9

Writing-wise, the last few months have been very busy for me, but in the best possible way. I’ve been working on two cozy mystery series, both of which have books coming out in the next few months. In January, the second book in the Music Lover’s Mystery series, Death in A Major, was released as an e-book, and the trade paperback was released in mid-February. While that book was getting released into the world, I was working away at the third book in the series (Deadly Overtures) as well as the first book in the Pancake House Mystery series (Crêpes of Wrath).

At this point, Deadly Overtures and Crêpes of Wrath are with their respective copy editors. The manuscripts will come back to me one more time for final review, and then I won’t see them again until they’re published. (Exciting!) Deadly Overtures is due out in June 2016 and Crêpes of Wrath will be released in September 2016.

I’ve seen the cover for Deadly Overtures and absolutely love it. I’m hoping I’ll be able to do a cover reveal soon to share it with everyone. I hope you’ll all love it as much as I do!

While I’m waiting for the copyedited manuscripts to come back to me for final review, I’m working on the second book in the Pancake House Mystery series. Although I’ve been doing some brainstorming and plotting for a week or two, I only started drafting it this weekend. Aside from reviewing my other manuscripts one last time, this is the book I’ll be focusing on for the next few months.

I hope readers will enjoy both series! 🙂

Dead Ringer on sale!

Dead RingerAmazon currently has the ebook of Dead Ringer on sale! Dead Ringer is the first book in the Music Lover’s Mystery series, featuring Midori Bishop, professional violinist and amateur sleuth.

The ebook is currently available for $0.85 on Amazon.com and $0.99 on Amazon.ca.

Here’s what the book is about:

Midori Bishop’s life is hitting all the right notes. She has her dream job playing violin in the Point Grey Philharmonic Orchestra, and is embarking on a new relationship with the symphony’s hot maestro. But when Midori finds a cellist strangled to death during a rehearsal, the maestro soon becomes the number-one suspect and Midori his only supporter.

Midori sets out to prove the maestro’s innocence, but soon discovers that he and many others have secrets they would rather keep hidden. For someone who was only a ringer—a temporary member of the orchestra—the dead cellist had certainly made a lot of enemies. And as the investigation takes Midori closer to the truth, the killer gears up for a grand finale—with Midori as the intended victim.

Cover Reveal: BLADELORE by Krista Walsh

When I found out that my friend and fellow writer Krista Walsh was releasing another book soon, I jumped at the chance to be part of the cover reveal. Krista is not only a wonderful person, she’s also a super talented author with several books already out in the world.

Today’s cover reveal is for BLADELORE, the third book in the Cadis trilogy. Here’s the gorgeous cover:

Bladelore-lores

Doesn’t it look fantastic?

And here’s what the book is about:

War has come to Andvell. Enemy after enemy takes its place along the northern border, each one a terrifying result of dark magic and experimentation. In the face of the great army, Andvell’s resources are few.

As the enemy marches, unlikely hero Venn Connell must act or be lost in the flood — one final mission to end the war, no matter the cost.

Standing on the brink of devastation, Venn is forced to question her most deeply held beliefs and trust her friends to see her through the darkness.

Author shot1You can find Krista online at the following places:

http://www.kristawalshauthor.com

Twitter: @kwalshauthor

Facebook: /kristwalshauthor

Known for witty, vivid characters, Krista Walsh never has more fun than getting them into trouble and taking her time getting them out. When not writing, she can be found walking, reading, gaming, or watching a film – anything to get lost in a good story. She currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

BL1 promo

Favourite Cozy Mystery Series

Public Domain - 450px-Bouquin_électronique_iLiad_sur_une_pile_de_livre_dehors_au_soleilIt won’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me that the cozy mystery genre is my favourite of all book genres. I love to read them and I love to write them. For those who aren’t familiar with the cozy mystery genre, some of the most common elements include minimal violence, an amateur sleuth, and a small community (either a small town or a specific community within a larger city). Cozies often have a theme as well (such as food, crafts, or books) and a romantic subplot that runs through the series.

While I follow and enjoy a long list of cozy series, I thought I’d share a few of my absolute favourites. These series tend to have a couple of things in common, aside from intriguing murder mysteries. The characters and settings draw me back time and time again, and whenever I read a book from these series, I feel like I’m spending time in a familiar, cozy place with people I know well. These series also have romantic subplots that I’m invested in, and all of these elements keep me eager to read each subsequent book in the series.

My list of favourites includes:

The Orchard Mysteries by Sheila Connolly

Set in the quaint New England town of Granford, Massachusetts, Meg Corey solves mysteries while managing an apple orchard.

The County Cork Mysteries by Sheila Connolly

American Maura Donovan forges a new life for herself in Ireland, where she finds more than she bargained for: relatives she never knew she had, a new job, new friends, and dead bodies.

The DIY Mysteries by Jennie Bentley

Textile designer Avery Baker, formerly of New York, settles in small town Maine where she teams up with her new boyfriend, Derek, to remodel houses and solve murders.

The Magical Cats Mysteries by Sofie Kelly

Librarian Kathleen Paulson solves mysteries in her Minnesota town along with former stray cats Owen and Hercules, who have some rather unusual abilities.

The Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries by Ali Brandon

New York bookshop owner Darla Pettistone solves mysteries with the help of her friends and her cat (and bookshop mascot) Hamlet.

The Renaissance Faire Mysteries by Joyce and Jim Lavene

Jessie Morton spends her summers with a cast of quirky characters at the Renaissance Village, where she hones her Renaissance skills and tracks down killers.

That’s just a taste of my favourite cozies. If you’re a fan of the genre, what are some of your favourite series?

Radio Interview

Death in A MajorLast night I did my first radio interview! I talked to host Jason Henderson about my Music Lover’s Mysteries on the latest episode of Castle of Horrors. I had a great time chatting with Jason about Dead Ringer and Death in A Major, and I’m so glad he invited me on the show.

For anyone interested, you can listen to the interview online or download it from the show’s website here. Currently my interview is at the top of the list since it was the most recent episode, but in the future you can find it by the date (01/25/2016) and title (Interview: Sarah Fox “Death in A Major”)

The ebook of Death in A Major: A Music Lover’s Mystery #2 was released in early January and the paperback will be available on February 23, 2016.

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